One of the tightest rental markets in Metro Vancouver is about to get a little looser with the soon to be built Residences at the Heights rising in the Austin Heights area of Coquitlam.
But what it will cost to rent a studio, one- or two-bedroom suite in the four-story market rental building at 945 Charland Ave. won’t be known until the building is almost complete.
That’s because the builder, Redbrick Properties, still doesn’t have all the construction costs locked down and needs to know the final numbers before committing to rents.
Still, Abdul Jiwan, president of Redbrick properties, is optimistic about the project, which has been acknowledged previously as the first purpose-built rental apartment constructed in 40 years in the city.
"We already have registrations to fill up the building more than twice,” Jiwan said, although he noted that applications for the 41 suites won’t be accepted until much closer to completion in August, 2019.
Excavation for the project began on Feb. 14 and on March 17 Redbrick is hosting a ground-breaking ceremony with Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA and housing minister Selina Robinson among the invited guests.
While the project will be at market rents, Jiwan said it will be more affordable than purchasing a home in the area.
While waiting for permits from the city, however, construction costs have risen 40 per cent, Jiwan said, making the project more expensive then originally envisioned.
“Today, construction costs are a major factor with housing. It is a lot higher than you realize — than people anticipate,” he said.
Still, there has been lots of interest in the project that will have units ranging from a studio at 464 square feet to two bedrooms at 816 square feet.
As well, he promised high quality finishings in the suites. “We believe renters deserve to live in high-quality housing.”
And because Redbrick is managing the apartment, he said renters can expect fair dealings. A resident caretaker will also be onsite.
The rush is on to start building more market rental units in Coquitlam. The recent Concert Properties project, which is now in the rezoning phase, is expected to bolster supply by more than 1,000 rental units, including market rental for seniors.
Providing more options for living in the Tri-Cities comes as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reports that rents in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody rose 11 per cent in the last 12 months. That is the largest increase in the region, which saw a 5.9 per cent overall rise.
The arrival of the Evergreen Extension is considered one of the reasons rents are rising. But in 2014, CMHC report noted that the rental rate for apartments in the Tri-Cities was 1.4 per cent, lower than both Vancouver and Burnaby.
Meanwhile, the Urban Development Institute is blaming cities for permitting delays they say are holding up new housing construction.
“While pointing the finger at foreign buyers gains public support, the biggest obstacles are still municipal permitting delay bottlenecks, which can take years, and restrictive, single-family zoning, on about 85 per cent of residential land across Metro,” stated UDI president and CEO Anne McMullin in a press release.
According to Urban Analytics figures, fewer homes are being built in Metro Vancouver than in 2013.
The total of new, unsold multi-family homes for purchase across Metro Vancouver, including pre-sale, under construction and move-in ready apartments and townhomes, increased slightly from last quarter’s 1,813 units to 2,554 units. But the figure is is still down 74 per cent from the second quarter 2013 peak of 9,858 units.
Currently, there are only 80 new move-in ready units available to purchase in Metro Vancouver, according to Michael Ferreira of Urban Analytics.
Meanwhile, the B.C. government is promising more affordable housing to boost supply.
The government plan announced during the recent budget commits $1.6 billion toward affordable housing, maintaining and improving existing social housing, and will help pay for 5,000 new student housing beds at post-secondary institutions.
A new HousingHub office will work with non-profit organizations, governments and private sector and new building will include 14,000 rental units for middle-income people.